As any builder can tell you, every rifle will have its quirks, but there are a few AR15 tools that every enthusiast should own. If you’re planning on buying a new AR or are working up for the next build, you’ll need an AR15 tool kit that you can trust, especially if you need to change parts or install new ones.
Every day, rifle builders around the country make avoidable mistakes, often because they have the wrong tools—or because they don’t know how to use their AR15 building tools. To quote Pat McNamara, “Experience is often something we get shortly after we need it.”
In rifle building, this lesson can certainly sting. You could spend thousands on your perfect parts list, but if you don’t have the right tools and know-how, your build might seriously flop.
This guide provides a list of the best AR15 tools for any AR15 tool kit. We’ll also tell you how AR15 building tools work with expert builder advice, which can elevate your rifle to the next level.
What Tools Do I Need to Build an AR15?
In any craft, it’s important to have a reliable set of tools.
While you don’t need a full workshop to build a rifle, there are some AR15 tools you will absolutely need.
Do not cheap out on these. Even if you think you can jerry-rig it, we STRONGLY caution against it. Too many builds are broken by trying something ‘close enough.’
AR-15 tools are specialized for a reason.
The Best AR15 Tools (For General AR15 Tool Kit):
The Best AR15 Building Tools for Your AR15 Tool Kit
You cannot apply torque without stability, so a bench vise and BEV Block (or Reaction Rod) are irreplaceable, especially during barrel installation. Personally, we prefer working with the Geissele Reaction Rods. They’re pricy, but if you’re a true enthusiast, you’ll appreciate their longevity and trustworthiness in your AR15 tool kit.
Equally important to your AR15 tool kit is your torque wrench. Insufficient torque can cause parts to slip loose, while excessive torque may bend the rifle’s receiver. For accurate torque ratings, a quality torque wrench is a must.
One of the most important AR15 tools is the Armorer’s Wrench, which is used for a wide variety of maintenance and building tasks. When selecting an armorer’s wrench, favor the proven models like Magpul Armorer’s Wrench or Tapco AR-15 Armorer’s Wrench. A cheap wrench might get you through one build, but you don’t have to spend much more to get a tool that’ll last a lifetime.
For small fastening, Wheeler sells a Delta Series Combo tool packaged with a torque wrench. Wheeler also makes many of the most popular bit driver and punch set packages, which are an essential part of any AR15 tool kit.
In many of our previous AR15 builds, we used the Wheeler FAT wrench and punch sets. The Wheeler FAT Wrench provides precise torque values for bit driving, so you can be confident in every screw and bolt. Wheeler Punch Sets are a staple throughout the industry, and conveniently, they include a brass and polymer hammer out of the box.
Finally, whenever you use these AR15 tools, wear your eye protection. Small parts under spring tension can easily shoot out and surprise you. Plenty of builders learn this lesson the hard way.
What AR15 Tools CAN’T Fix!
The basics are the most important.
Even expert builders can get tripped up in the simple traps, as competence creates over-confidence.
The most common issue in rifle building happens before you ever pick up any AR15 tools: parts compatibility. Sometimes, aftermarket parts are just incompatible. They won’t fit together, no matter what you do.
From our experience, the most common issue comes with handguard selection, particularly when paired with billet receivers. Billet receivers look cool and add major flair to any build, but some handguard anti-rotation tabs refuse to fit their non-standard dimensions.
Handguard sizing can also be a problem.
Undersized handguards expose the gas block to damage, while oversized handguards may extend beyond the muzzle threads. Unless you intend on recessing a suppressor or blast diverter into the handguard, this is a definite no-go.
Sometimes, handguards can also cause problems when paired with piston gas systems or oversized gas blocks. Here, the internal measurement of the handguard may be more important than the external measurement.
Whenever you are uncertain about compatibility, just call us. Our customer service team will be happy to help you verify that all your parts will be compatible.
Creating an AR15 Parts Plan
Parts planning is an important step in building an AR, and good planning can eliminate issues of compatibility—or unnecessary replacements.
Again, this happens before you ever need to use your AR15 tools, but it’ll save you a lot of trouble that even the best AR15 tools can’t fix.
Your best builds start with a clear vision and end-goal, reducing wasteful parts replacements. Though waste won’t kill your build, repeated part swaps do drain the budget fast.
Every gun-owner will make changes to their rifle as they grow in experience and taste, but the phrase “buy once, cry once” is still good advice. It’s often cheaper to buy the best option first, lest you end up like this article’s author with a dozen different vertical grips collecting dust in parts bins.
We also recommend that builders buy extras for small parts.
Even with the best AR15 tools and a comprehensive AR15 tool kit, tiny springs and pins can disappear in the blink of an eye. If you’re building on a thick carpet… well, good luck.
Save yourself the frustration. Pick up some extra detents and springs with your order to prevent build-day roadblocks.
Secret Techniques for AR15 Building Tools
Beyond the basics, we’ve developed some of our own tips and tricks for AR15 building tools.
This advice comes straight from the team behind our monthly rifle giveaways. Counting personal projects, our builders have 100+ completed rifles under their belt, so we’ve seen just about everything.
Hopefully, our experiences can help you dodge a few of the mistakes we’ve made along the way.
AR15 Tools Tip #1: Get an AR-15 Pivot Pin Tool
For our first advice, we have another AR15 tools recommendation: the Wheeler AR Pivot Pin Installation Tool.
Pivot pins can be a tremendous pain to install by hand, and we use this tool to make the process easier. While a hex key can help manage the detent, any slip will fling it into the void.
If you decide to install pivot pins by hand, just be careful where you put your eye. We’re not joking when we say that detent can fly.
AR15 Tools Tip #2: Use Aeroshell Grease for Threading
When working on threading, apply Aeroshell 33MS grease on the barrel extension, upper receiver threads, and castle nut.
Not only will this protect against corrosion, but it’ll prevent seizing and improve your experience during barrel installation. We’ve seen overzealous builders bend their receivers by fighting their threads. Never bust out a hammer for a task that your AR15 tools should handle alone.
AR15 Tools Tip #3: Barrel Dimpling with a Drill Driver
If you own a drill driver, consider buying a dimpling jig, such as the SLR Rifleworks .750” Dimpling Jig.
A dimpled barrel makes the gas block install faster and guarantees solid fit without the risk of slippage. The dimpling process is easier than it sounds, and there is no risk to the barrel if you follow instructions.
While some gun-owners might blink at finding a drill in their AR15 tool kit, think of it as an honorary entrant.
AR15 Tools Tip #4: Tactical Application of Tape
Painter’s tape is an artisan’s best friend.
Once you’ve scraped up the side of a receiver, you’ll never want to build without using some protective covering. Painter’s tape is an excellent adhesive that protects the finish of your rifle and shields parts against accidental scrape and impact.
On its own, the Delrin-tipped hammer does a great job at reducing the scratches for lower parts installation, but painter’s tape will give you an added layer of confidence (pun intended.
If you need extra protection for areas like the bolt catch roll pin, electrical tape has more padding and the same low-strength adhesion.
If you’re new to the building scene, you will probably make some mistakes along the way. Even if you have the best AR15 tools, mistakes happen.
So, for our last piece of advice: know when to take a step back.
If you can’t figure out how to fix something, or if you’re having trouble with your AR15 tools, don’t try to brute force it.
Here, we circle back to the quality of your AR15 building tools. If your parts are compatible, and you use all the right AR15 tools, you will complete the build.
But don’t forget—even professionals have touch-up pens.
If you are having trouble, take a step back, and think through your process before you put metal on metal. Resist the temptation to rush, no matter how close you are to completion.
A rifle that works tomorrow beats a rifle that breaks today.